Shin’s group temporarily left Zazie’s and went to Celciutos’ bridge. The basic controls were not much different from a regular ship’s, it just had more equipment and functions.
According to Lierno, Jesta had sealed off the bridge, so no one had been able to enter it. Shin simply knocked on the Chimeradite door and operated the control panel.
“It was locked from the inside, so that only Rokuten members could access it, huh.”
The panel confirmed Shin’s magic power and changed the color of its light from red to blue. The door slid open, sounding like a steam vent.
“At least it doesn’t look like anything is damaged.”
The room’s self-cleaning function seemed to be still active, since there was no dust piled up. And the various panels did not look cracked or broken either.
As Shin gave a quick look around the bridge, he felt something tugging at his sleeve. Tiera had grabbed Shin’s sleeve and weakly pulled on it.
“Are those….human bones?”
Shin looked in the direction Tiera pointed at and, sure enough, spotted what looked like a person’s bones sprawled on the ground. The hands were clasped on the chest, so it didn’t look like he had been killed.
“Jesta, I guess.”
Shin looked at the equipment on the skeleton and quickly noticed that some of it were his own creation. It was possible to instantly notice equipment one had forged, even if it was equipped by others. Shin also remembered seeing the equipment somewhere before. He didn’t use 【Analyze】, but there was no mistaking it.
“…before we go to the sanctuary, can we give Jesta a proper send off?”
Shin contacted Zazie and the others, who rushed to the room. Zazie then asked Shin this question while looking at Jesta’s remains.
“Yes, of course.”
Shin nodded. There was no way they would leave him like that.
“Are these letters?”
“Yes, one is addressed to us, one to any Rokuten member, one to lord Cook.”
Three letters were found next to Jesta’s remains. Based on the situation, they were probably his will. Shin took the letter addressed to Rokuten members and unsealed it. The letter contained a detailed report of what had happened after Jesta had met the merpeople.
He had chosen to spend the last moments of his life alone in the bridge, accounting for the possibility that some merpeople or fishpeople plotted to misuse Celciutos.
After reading the letter, Shin had a newfound respect for Jesta.
Other than the ship and the miasma, the letter also recounted the cause of his death. In his older years, he had caught a disease that potions could not cure. Potions mainly focused on healing wounds, so they were often ineffective against diseases.
The letter stated that the disease itself was not extremely rare, but maybe because he had become weaker due to his age, Jesta’s condition just kept worsening.
Despite knowing that his death was approaching, Jesta spent his days thinking about the people living on Celciutos and how to deal with the miasma, showing impressive mental fortitude.
“We are proud to be his comrades.”
Zazie, reading the letter addressed to them, whispered with a quavering voice. Next to her, Lapwing hugged the weeping Bell and Shell.
“….how do you bury people here?”
“Barbatos’ style is to cremate the body and scatter the ashes in the sea. The soul returns to the heavens, the body to mother sea…this is the creed in this region.”
Shin waited for Zazie the others to settle down before asking, and Zazie replied. They turned Jesta’s remains into a card, which Zazie held.
“Could you please allow us to participate in the send off? We are deeply indebted to him as well.”
Shin told Lierno that they wanted to give Jesta a proper send off before heading to the Seafloor Sanctuary, and the chief made his plea, his head bowed.
The whole tribe wished to participate in the funeral. Arno and the mermaids, who had waited for the High Human’s return, shared this sentiment too and nodded.
“….chief, I understand you want to pay your respects to the person we are indebted to, but we can’t do something like that now, can we? If we go on like this, some of us will end up starving.”
Despite the general atmosphere which indicated that everyone wanted to proceed with the funeral, only Marshill expressed a contrary opinion. Lierno’s scolding had probably cooled him off, since his tone was now perfectly calm.
“Even so, we must. That is the greatness of the debt we owe him. If we shirk this responsibility, how can we face the spirits of our ancestors?”
“What is happening, exactly? He said that your people will starve?”
Shin was thankful that they would participate in the funeral, but after hearing that people would die, he couldn’t just ignore it.
“Actually, just like the three sea beasts, all monsters in the Kuwain area started growing feral…sir. Because of this, the resources we need are getting scarce…m’lord.”
“You don’t need to force yourself to speak politely.”
According to Marshill, the monsters had turned feral and attacked without regard to their own safety, so many of the fishpeople and merpeople who had exited the barrier to procure supplies had fallen victim to their attacks.
Some of the Celciutos dwellers could deal with the monsters, but it was nevertheless becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that all of them had enough to eat. Because of this, the settlement’s food reserves were now very low. The fishpeople and merpeople working outside helped however they could, but the limit was apparently near.
“Why don’t you take refuge in Barbatos? Arno said that she can teleport there, so if the merpeople and fishpeople here can manage to leave the Kuwain area you can make do somehow, no?”
Arno, who watched Shin’s party leave for Kuwain, had somehow arrived before them. She had used a teleport crystal. It was a secret method that not even the guild knew about.
Arno had also said that she worked in the guild to know who wanted to go to the Kuwain area as early as possible. The teleport spot she used was just outside Barbatos, on the seafloor. The teleport crystals she used were not single use items, but high grade items which could teleport the user an unlimited number of times to a registered location.
“The teleport crystal I use only works with members of the Toole bloodline. Even if someone of my bloodline used it, they couldn’t bring anyone from outside the bloodline with them. We thought of moving to another location, but the Kuwain area, as of now, is too dangerous even for our warriors. Even if we moved in small, escorted groups, it would be very risky.”
While they were ready to flee, leaving their sanctuary behind, they could not reach an agreement about when and how to do it. Thus time passed and the situation continued to worsen. Transferring not only one or two people, but the whole clan, was something above Arno’s capabilities too.
Even if they moved to Barbatos in small groups, in the current situation, some warriors would surely die, so there was no way to know how many would safely reach Barbatos’ shores.
They had also made a plea to Barbatos’ lord, but the answer had not been favorable.
“Most of the people living here have never set foot in a town. It seems they are worried that a mass immigration would later create troubles.”
Barbatos, thanks to the pools built inside the city and its temperate climate, was a popular tourist destination. The famous restaurant Shigureya, too, was one of its attractions. Because of this, its governors were sensitive to situations that could create problems. Events that could damage the city’s reputation were dealt with swiftly.
For Barbatos, a mass immigration of individuals not used to living in towns was nothing but a recipe for trouble.
Fishpeople and merpeople were humanlike creatures, not wild beasts. They had the intellect to learn the rules and the rationality to respect them. Even so, most of Barbatos’ dwellers were humans. They were races with different cultures and lifestyles. Fishpeople and merpeople already lived there, so it was not likely for large conflicts to break out, but it would still be difficult to imagine that both sides could fully accept each other without any trouble, even for Shin.
“Most of all, saving us would mean entering the Kuwain area. Thinking about the casualties that such an operation would mean, they surely couldn’t send a rescue team.”
Not even a marine city’s sea warriors would be safe when traveling to Kuwain. It was a route dangerous even for veterans, with a very low survival rate. Any leader would hesitate to send their forces there.
“Many of us refuse to leave their hometown, too. They would want to stay even if the barrier were to disappear.”
The elderly especially displayed such a tendency. If they had to die, it would be where they were born, or so they said.
“Even if the barrier was gone, we could somehow manage if the monsters returned to normal. If we could get rid of the cause, we wouldn’t need to hide in Celciutos.”
Marshill, standing calmly next to Lierno, spoke again.
“I think we could do something about the need for the barrier. If we could get rid of the problem with Ishkar, then we could solve the situation somehow…or so I would like to think.”
Shin heard that Kuwain had originally been a safe area to live in. If the miasma was purified and Ishkar regained its strength, the seas would hopefully return to how they were.
Shin paused for a moment, then continued.
“Well, I understand the situation now. This is a problem to be solved after the funeral, but let’s all eat for now. You have to hold on for a little longer, until we do something about Ishkar, at least.”
“Indeed. An empty stomach robs people of their willpower.”
“It’s almost lunch time for us too.”
Shibaid and Filma, who had kept silent until then, nodded in agreement.
Shin’s item box contained great quantities of food supplies. While the funeral was important, he decided to give the priority to those who were living now.
“I’m sorry, guys.”
“No, Jesta too would say that if we had time to hold a funeral for him, we should fill up people’s bellies first.”
“That’s right, that’s exactly what he would say.”
“Grandpa Jesta wouldn’t get angry!”
“He’d get angry and say ‘leave the funeral for later!’ instead!”
Shin apologized for deciding on his own, but Zazie, Lapwing, Bell and Shell shook their heads. Being support characters for the same master, they knew very well how Jesta would have reacted in that situation.
Schnee, who had a high Cooking skill, and Tiera – who had been trained by her – offered to help. Shin told the apologetic Lierno to gather the other tribe members and, with the rest of the party, went to Celciutos’ kitchen. Shibaid and Filma, who were not especially skilled in cooking, went with Lierno to call the other tribe members.
Arno was the only mermaid with the cooking skill, so she went with Shin’s group.
“Who knew that there was a place like this…”
Arno was wide-eyed; Celciutos’ kitchen was equipped with cooking utensils of the highest quality. Basic tools like knives and pots, modern machines like stoves and ovens, bizarre tools that made it difficult to guess what they could be used for… It looked like a small exhibition.
“Let’s start cooking. Prioritize quantity and speed.”
“I’ll handle the preparations.”
Shin took ingredients out of the item box, which Zazie and Lapwing started cooking. Thanks to their boosted stats, vegetables and fish were instantly cut, cleaned, then put into large pots.
There was a great quantity of food to prepare, so they decided to make soup dishes. After skillfully preparing the ingredients, they prepared to cook a bouillabaisse.
Bell and Shell left the room for the moment and went to set the tables.
“Master, you look like you’re keeping up with them, but I couldn’t at all…”
“I couldn’t either…”
Tiera looked at Schnee working alongside Zazie and Lapwing and commented, with a slightly troubled expression on her face. Arno, who was standing next to her, agreed.
“They go above and beyond simply being good cooks, after all.”
Shin too couldn’t help but laugh wryly while looking at the cooking team’s movements.
High physical abilities and cooking skills complemented each other to form a scenery quite different from what one would expect to see in a normal kitchen. The sound of cutting vegetables was quick and sharp, but when it was heard the vegetable had already been completely cut.
Rather than cooking, it was like seeing a magic trick where vegetables were sliced instantly. Shin and Tiera could not intrude the realm of such experts.
“…we might as well go help Bell and Shell.”
“Yes, let’s. We’d just be in the way here.”
The two gave up on helping in the kitchen and decided to go help prepare the tables.
All cooking tools in the kitchen had time reduction bonuses attached, so soon after putting them in the pot to boil they already gave a delicious smell. Seconds later the ingredients looked tasty and a kuu-like sound could be heard.
“…Yuzuha didn’t say anything, you know?”
Shin too knew that the sound was different from Yuzuha’s usual voice. He looked towards the source and found Tiera and Arno.
“H-Hey! That wasn’t me!”
Tiera realized what Shin’s look meant and motioned her denial with her hands. The only other option was thus Arno.
She must have been embarrassed to be asked if she was hungry. Arno’s face was growing redder and redder.
“…aah, I’m sorry, that was me just now. I’m getting pretty hungry.”
“Shin, that was way too slow.”
If he had to say something, he should have done so right after the rumbling stomach. Shin’s “helpful” comment was mercilessly struck down by Tiera. It had not been helpful at all, but there was nothing to do about it.
“Ehm, I’m sorry, about everything…”
“No, I’m ashamed to have—”
Just as Arno was apologizing, another “kuu” sound resounded in the surroundings.
It was more than clear that Arno’s stomach was the source.
Arno, still blushing violently, hit her stomach to try to prevent it from rumbling again.
It was painful to see how she was trying to fake a smile. Maybe her will had won, though, because the rumbling stopped.
“Ehm…you don’t need to go so far.”
“….that’s not it.”
“We didn’t have enough for everyone…so I just skipped breakfast….”
Arno crouched down and hid her face with her hands, while explaining herself in a quiet voice. Her still visible ears were as red as apples.
“Shin, you and Yuzuha go ahead.”
“Ah, yeah, gotcha.”
Shin followed Tiera’s advice and headed out of the room with Yuzuha. Tiera’s expression seemed to tell him, “don’t look at her”.
“With a smell like this in the air, of course your stomach starts rumbling…”
“Yuzuha’s hungry too!”
Yuzuha agreed to Shin’s mumbling, her tails swaying left and right.
The scent wafting from the kitchen was getting more and more powerful and now strongly stimulated the appetite of anyone who smelled it. If one had skipped breakfast, it was no wonder for the stomach to start craving nutrition.
“We’ve come to help, but have you already finished here?”
Bell and Shell worked at Shigureya, after all, so their preparation was flawless.
They explained the menu, asked if anyone had allergies, and promptly completed all other necessary preparations. The merpeople and fishpeople who came inside all received a bowl and a spoon, then stared at the kitchen: the source of the smell deliciously filling the air, of course.
“(The food is ready, can you help us bring it out?)”
“(Okay, I’m coming.)”
Shin received Schnee’s Mind Chat and went back to the kitchen.
“Shin? What’s wrong?”
“They told me the food’s ready. I’m going to help serve it.”
Shin told Tiera, who was with the still slightly blushing Arno, and walked away. As he neared the kitchen, the smell grew stronger and stronger.
With Yuhuza perched on his head, both her and Shin’s stomachs gave healthy rumbles.
“These are the first 80 servings. We will bring the rest as soon as it’s ready.”
“Got it. I’ll give these to Bell and Shell, then come back.”
Shin turned the bubbling pot into a card and quickly left the kitchen.
He then materialized the pot on a table prepared by Bell and Shell, raising loud cheers from the fishpeople and merpeople. Shin’s group split their roles and served them food, prioritizing children, women and the elderly. Shibaid and Filma kept the queue in order.
“Yes, this is really delicious…”
“I feel so warm…”
“Mgh! Gulp! So good!! Amazing!!”
Mothers smacked their lips while looking at their rejoicing children. Grandmothers let out sighs of relief after slowly bringing the bowl to their lips. Young men wolfed down on their portions as if in a trance. Everyone had content smiles on their faces.
“So this is Shigureya’s true power. It really is delicious.”
“Kuu, so tasty!”
Realizing that if they properly lined up, they could all have something to eat, no one disrupted the queue. Taking turns, Shin’s party ate their fill too. Yuzuha took the chance to change into human form and enjoyed her soup.
“Everyone’s asking for seconds. Well, it was to be expected…hmm?”
Shin finished his soup, then his eyes caught the sight of Marshill, bowl in hand, looking at the other fishpeople. There was still steam coming from his bowl: he clearly hadn’t finished his soup yet.
“You’re not going to eat?”
“What do you—oh, it’s you, sir.”
The surprised Marshill stood perfectly straight and bowed to Shin.
“What’s gotten into you, all of a sudden?”
“I am deeply sorry for my deplorable behavior until now.”
Shin was confused by the fishman’s sudden change. He told him to raise his head and explain first of all. They went to sit on a ledge and Shin told Marshill to drink his soup before it turned cold.
Marshill still tried to speak as politely as possible, so Shin requested that he speak normally.
“I am the leader of the warrior tribe protecting this sanctuary. But all I could do for everyone’s sake was to gather a meager amount of food.”
Having fighting skills, he could have become an adventurer and earned through that, but there was the chance that some among the dwellers may go on a rampage out of frustration and despair, so – thinking about such a possibility – he could not bring himself to leave the settlement.
Marshill had witnessed personally how ferocious the attacks of the three sea beasts were: he was also concerned that the barrier might break down.
“Little by little, day by day, everyone was growing thinner. But I couldn’t do anything to change the situation.”
As they were tasked with procuring food supplies, warriors received relatively complete meals: the portions to the children, the elderly and young people without anything to do, however, were unbearably small.
Some warriors shared their food with them too. If they did, however, they wouldn’t be able to muster their power when needed; many of them were killed by monsters this way.
“We couldn’t move to Barbatos now, not even if we wanted. Even if we knew we had no future, staying here is all we could do.”
Even when he stood against Shin, Marshill didn’t have enough strength to fight properly. The difficult situation is the reason why he looked so irritable.
“….Kids can laugh like that, huh.”
Marshill looked at the children running around near them, a mellower expression on his face.
His peaceful atmosphere now made him look like a completely different person compared to when Shin first met him.
“I don’t care what happens to me. But please, let my subordinates go. They just followed my orders.”
“Hey, don’t you dare do that here.”
Shin felt that Marshill was going to kneel to apologize and stopped him.
“I have no intention of doing anything anyway. We didn’t fight and no one was hurt on either side. You better apologize to Zazie and the others, though. You said that something belonging to their master was yours, after all. It’s not something they can just let go either.”
Marshill nodded firmly to Shin’s words.
“Whoops, looks like the last pot is almost empty. I’ll go take it.”
“I’ll help too if I can.”
Marshill went to Bell and Shell, while Shin headed to the kitchen.
He went back and forth three times.
After about 400 servings of soup were cleared, the cooking came to an end.
“We finished cleaning up, so can you tell us where the Seafloor Sanctuary is?”
“Yes, I was told to be your guide. Please follow me.”
Shin’s group boarded their magic-powered vessel and, following Arno’s lead, went underwater.
Joining Shin in this expedition were the usual members: his support characters and Tiera. As there was the possibility of fighting in an unfamiliar underwater environment, Shin gave Tiera a ring that would absorb damage to a certain degree.
The Shigureya crew remained on Celciutos, in charge of checking whether all its functions were working properly. Shin didn’t think anything would happen so soon, but he told them to focus on the barrier first, just in case.
“The barrier extends underwater…no, up and down? So it’s less affected by outside sources, huh.”
Shin considered how Celciutos’ barrier had been erected as the ship proceeded underwater. Even inside the storm, the waves around Celciutos were calm. The underwater surroundings did not seem unusual either.
Learning that the Seafloor Sanctuary was directly below Celciutos, Shin pictured the barrier’s extension in his head.